Canada’s credit card market saw some dramatic changes over the last year. Rewards programs were altered, popular cards were discontinued, and one new game-changer card joined the market.
Travel rewards credit cards continue to be very popular amongst Canadians — who doesn’t want to travel for free? The problem is, there are so many different cards and programs that it can be difficult to figure out which is the best for you.
To make things easier, we’re highlighting the best travel credit cards in Canada for 2018.
Ratehub.ca’s best travel credit cards in Canada for 2018
|Credit Card||Best Travel Card For||Annual Fee|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express (VIEW)||Everyday Use||$99|
|American Express Cobalt Card (VIEW)||Frequent Travellers||$120
$150 (waived 1st year)
|Home Trust Preferred Visa (VIEW)||No Foreign Transaction Fees||$0
|MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard (VIEW)||No Annual Fees||$0|
|The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (VIEW)||Hotel Stays||$120|
Scotiabank Gold American Express
With four points for every $1 spent on gas, groceries, restaurants, and entertainment, the Scotiabank Gold American Express consistently ranks as one of the best travel rewards cards in Canada for racking up points on everyday purchases. The 15,000 welcome bonus you get for spending $1,000 in the first three months has a value of $150 (100 Scotia Rewards points = $1 when redeemed for travel), including flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, vacation packages. Points can also be redeemed for gift cards and merchandise from retailers such as Apple and Best Buy.
When booking your travel, you can choose to use Scotia Rewards’ full-service travel agency, or charge your travel expenses to your card and redeem points later to cover the costs. There are no restrictions for redeeming travel — you can book anywhere, anytime, and use points to cover all taxes and fees. There are several additional benefits including comprehensive travel insurance, concierge service, 30% off a Priority Pass membership (USD$32 fee also applies per visit), price protection, and much more.
American Express Cobalt Card
When the American Express Cobalt Card was introduced, many Canadians felt the card was an instant game-changer. Earning 5 points for every $1 spent on restaurants, groceries, and food delivery was very aggressive – as was the first-year welcome offer that gives you 2,500 points for every month you spend $500 on the card up to a maximum of 30,000 points ($300 value). Plus, the card offers 2 points per dollar on travel-related purchases, including flight tickets from any airline. The $10 monthly fee was also a unique take on the card as it felt more like a subscription service where cardholders could earn extra points with their monthly spending and still have ability to cancel at any time without a penalty.
It should be noted that the Membership Rewards points earned are of a lower category compared to other American Express cards, but they’re valuable nonetheless. For every 1,000 points, you can redeem $10 in travel, which works out to a 5% return on food and drink purchases. Non travel redemption gets you $7 for every 1,000 points — or a 3.5% return — which is comparable to some of the best cash-back cards. In addition, you can transfer your Membership Rewards points to Starwood (SPG) points at a 2:1 ratio.
BMO World Elite MasterCard
The BMO World Elite MasterCard is another popular travel rewards card, giving you three BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on travel (a big plus for frequent flyers whose list of high spend purchases include flight tickets) as well as restaurants and entertainment. The card offers two points per dollar on everything else.
The card includes a number of great features including a Mastercard Airport Experiences membership with four complimentary passes per year, allowing you VIP airport lounge access in cities across the world. It also has comprehensive travel insurance package, and no blackout dates when redeeming for travel.
Note: Updated to include changes to the BMO Rewards program effective Jan. 15, 2018.
Home Trust Preferred Visa
Home Trust is mostly known for offering mortgages, but their credit card portfolio has grown over the last few years. The Home Trust Preferred Visa was introduced to the market last year with little fanfare, but it’s one of the best travel cards in Canada because it has no annual fee, and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees — when you make a purchase in a foreign country or in a currency other than CAD/USD, most cards tack on a 2.5%-3% surcharge. Note that the Home Trust Preferred Visa is not available to residents of Quebec.
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is currently the only card from one of Canada’s major banks that doesn’t levy a fee on purchases made in foreign currencies. Combined with a spending bonus of 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) and six free visits per year to Priority Pass lounges worldwide, this card is a great choice for an all-in-one travel card.
This card gives you two Scotia Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment (including movie theatres, musicals/plays, orchestras, concert tickets), and daily transit purchases (including buses, subways, taxis, limos, trains, and ferries), and one point per dollar on everything else.
MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard
One of the few no fee travel credit cards in Canada that offers bonus points on three different spending categories (rather than on just one or a flat rate on all purchases), the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard earns you 2 points for every dollar spent on gas, groceries and restaurants (on up to $5,000 in purchases per category per year) and 1 point on everything else.
In addition to a generous tiered rewards structure, new card holders can capitalize on a 5,000 welcome bonus ($50 value) after making their first purchase and signing up for online e-statements within their first 90 days. Plus, with MBNA’s flexible rewards structure, you can use points for flights on any airline, apply points towards taxes and fees, as well as redeem points retroactively. The card also features some travel insurance benefits including lost baggage assistance and up to $1,000,000 in emergency travel insurance.
Blue Sky Credit Card
The Blue Sky Credit Card has a lot of flexibility and a stellar earn rate for a no-fee travel card: 1.25 Blue Sky points for every $1 spent on the card. Every 100 points is worth $1 in rewards. Points can be redeemed in increments of 5,000 starting with little as 10,000 points (worth $100 in travel rewards).
This card is comparable to its premium counterparts: There are no blackout dates, and you can book through any airline, carrier, or travel agency. You can also book your trip first and apply your points to cover the cost later — up to one year after your purchase. It also includes up to $100,000 in travel accident insurance coverage.
You can also earn bonus points by referring friends. For each approved referral, you’ll get 5,000 Blue Sky points.
Scotiabank American Express Card
With no annual fee for extras or privileges, the Scotiabank American Express Card works as both a standalone card, or as a secondary card for existing Scotia Rewards collectors. Every dollar spent on the card earns you one Scotia Rewards point, redeemable for travel (flights, hotels, cruises, car rentals, and vacation packages), merchandise (including Apple and Best Buy catalogues), gift cards, or as a credit on your monthly card statement.
For a no-fee card, it has strong travel insurance coverage: Travel emergency medical (up to $1 million in coverage for up to eight consecutive days of travel), travel interruption insurance and travel accident insurance (when you charge at least 75% of trip costs to your card), and car rental collision/loss damage (up to 48 consecutive days of coverage for vehicles costing less than $65,000).
The Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express
For many frequent travellers, earning points that can be redeemed for discounted accommodation or a free nights stay at a hotel is just as (if not more) important as securing a deal on a flight ticket.
Enter the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. Relaunched in mid-year 2018 following the merger of Starwood and Marriott, this card offers 5 points per dollar spent at any of the 6,500 hotels under the Marriott umbrella and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases. Points can be redeemed for free nights at any of those same hotels, which include brands such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, Delta and over a dozen others. This card also features a large welcome bonus of 50,000 points after spending your first $1,500, which equates to four free night stays at select hotels. An added plus of this card is its wide array of point transfer options. You can transfer Starwood points to the loyalty programs of over 40 airlines.
In contrast to the other travel credit cards on this list, which offer the ability to use points for hotel stays but at the cost of a lower redemption value, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is made for hotel rewards.
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